BARNEGAT – At a recent Barnegat Board of Education meeting, Superintendent of Schools Karen Wood informed that, as a solution to the growing number of special needs kids in the district, the Cecil S. Collins School will be adding an additional pre-kindergarten class.
Wood noted that it is somewhat unusual that the district would add a class in the middle of the school year, yet it is now necessary.
The main reason for this class, to be officially open for students come January 16, is “due to the sheer quantity of [special needs] kids,” said Dr. Brian Latwis, Director of Special Education for the Barnegat School District.
It is hard to project what the number of students will look like for any given year, said Wood, yet the schools are required by law to accommodate each and every one of these special needs students, thus signaling the immediate need for more classes.
The new pre-kindergarten class will have morning and afternoon sessions, and will help to accommodate 12 additional students to the district.
“We’ve expanded our inclusion programs across the district,” said Latwis. The district already has three pre-K special needs classes in place at the Collins School, according to Latwis. All of the other Barnegat schools have some form of special needs class geared towards the needs of the majority of kids in that area, i.e. behavioral or cognitive classes, or classes for children with autism.
The Collins School has a “self-contained elementary” class in place, said Latwis. This class is meant for students anywhere from pre-K to fifth grade. If there are more pre-K students in the self-contained class, you generally don’t want older students from fifth grade, at the ages of 10 and 11, mixed in with three- and four-year-olds, explained Wood.
“By code, you can’t go over the three-year mark,” said Latwis with regard to age difference in these classes. In other words, a 3 year old cannot be in class with a 7 year old.